Read Alikes (Vol. 1): Evvie Drake Starts Over

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The Flatshare
by: Beth O’Leary

Screen Shot 2019-06-02 at 11.44.40 AMWhen I read the synopsis for this book, I felt like it was going to be way too cheesy for me. Basically, Tiffy goes through a bad break up with her boyfriend and needs a place to live immediately. She answers an ad in the paper that calls for a roommate to “share” the apartment – Leon will have the apartment during the day while Tiffy will have it every night. Tiffy and Leon begin writing each other notes, eventually becoming friends…and more!

I loved the characters in this book so much, and they made me fall in love with the story – cheesiness and all! But, having said that, there was depth to the story, and I was totally taken by surprise by that! If you’re looking for something light and easy, but absolutely entertaining, this book is for you!

Waiting for Tom Hanks by: Kerry Winfrey

Screen Shot 2020-03-22 at 1.46.54 PMWAITING FOR TOM HANKS is sweet and adorable and perfect in every way. I loved the references to 90s/2000s RomComs (Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and When Harry Met Sally). I also loved how Annie’s love for RomCom’s comes from her relationship with her mother, who has since passed away. She continues to watch them as a way to feel closer to her mama…that’s something I can totally relate to!

This is the perfect book for when you’re needed something lighter to dive into (like now!).

Red, White, & Royal Blue by: Casey McQuiston

Screen Shot 2020-03-22 at 1.48.42 PMThis one caught me completely by surprise! I loved everything about this book – it had the perfect balance between light-hearted romance, the exploration of deeper issues, and a well-developed plot and characters. Besides, who isn’t intrigued with the idea of a romance between America’s First Family and the British Royal Family?

The Unhoneymooners by: Christina Lauren

Screen Shot 2020-03-22 at 1.47.14 PMOlive and Ethan surmount innumerable hurdles to finally find themselves happily in love with each other. There were funny moments and hilarious one-liners throughout that kept me rolling through the pages. Overall, I appreciated Olive’s growth throughout the novel and her advocacy for being a curvy girl with no shame. We need more of this from authors! I liked the evolution of Olive and Ethan’s relationship, and I loved Olive’s supportive family and her relationship with her twin sister.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by: Gail Honeyman

Screen Shot 2020-03-22 at 1.46.29 PMThis wasn’t my favorite book out of the bunch but so many others have loved it that it’s worth mentioning.

Eleanor is a charming, witty, and endearing woman, but struggles in social situations. Therefore, she is somewhat of a recluse, sticking to a strict schedule. But when she meets Raymond, the sweetest friend one could hope for, everything changes.

I appreciated the wit and humor of Eleanor, I just wish the whole book would have had the depth that the last ⅓ had. Again, I seem to be in the minority with this opinion and think it makes a perfect addition to this roundup.

My Week in Books {3/25/20}

I’ve determined that March 2020 can go straight to you-know-where. This month has been scary and full of fear and anxiety and exhausting. I’m hoping, by some miracle, we turn a corner in April and life can resume in a more “normal” capacity.

I keep reminding myself of the sacrifices generations before us have had to make. They’ve gone off to war, stood in lines with food ration stamps, and had to flee their actual homes. I’m grateful that hasn’t been our reality…cooping up at home with the comforts of electricity, shelter, food, and water doesn’t seem so bad when it’s put in perspective.

And BOOKS! I have a plethora of those so this downtime has been a great time to grab some books off my shelves and READ!

Speaking of books…

🎧 If you’re looking for a way to support your favorite independent bookstore, Libro.fm is making it easy. They’re the only audiobook company that directly supports the indie bookstore of your choice. If you’re a member, consider downloading a few audiobooks to lend some support their way (you can even gift audiobooks and subscriptions!). If you’re not a member yet, follow this link and use my promo code (HAPPIEST) to get 3 audiobooks for the price of one ($14.99)!

Before moving onto some #minibookreviews, here are some links to my recent posts, in case you missed them:

What have you been reading (and loving) this week?

Last Week’s Reads:

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📖 The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by: Josie Silver 🐦

When Lydia Bird’s fiancé dies, she is thrown into a grief she’s never known and one that changes her life forever. As she deals with that grief, she also realizes she’s able to visit Freddie if she takes a sleeping pill. As she navigates the real world while also visiting Freddie in an alternate universe, Lydia transforms into a different, stronger person.

If you’ve been here long, you know I love a good book about grief. This book hit all the marks for me and I truly loved reading it. It did start off a bit slow, but as the story came together, I couldn’t put it down. I loved Lydia and Jonah Jones…and I thought the depiction of grief from the spouse and friend perspectives were realistic and sympathetic. The message of hope at the end was perfect.

Thanks to the recommendation from Sara (@fictionmatters), I picked this one up and I am so happy I did! 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Ballantine Books | Pub Date: March 3, 2020 | 369 Pages | Hardcover | Purchase via Bookstore Link

📖 Untamed by: Glennon Doyle 🧡

I LOVED this one – same as all of Doyle’s other books. I read it in a day! Doyle writes pain in a way that heals, and she gives women permission to embrace themselves. Her heart is gold and I appreciate her approach to life. I wish there were more people like her in the world…though her reach is far, so I hope people continue to be inspired by her!

My only complaints: some of the information felt repetitive – either regurgitated blog posts or stuff I’ve hear elsewhere before. I have to keep in mind that not everyone may have heard it, so maybe it’s best that it was included. But there were times where I felt like she ran out of new topics so she circled back to some old stuff. Also, there were a few places where Doyle kind of came off as pretentious and that really bugged me. I know she’s accomplished a lot and she’s worked hard to come into her own, but the persona that I equate her with is above tooting her own horn. And, hello! I preordered your book in November! I don’t need a reminder of what a badass you are!

Either way, those complaints don’t detract from the book. Glennon Doyle is amazing and I loved this book!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 |The Dial Press | Pub Date: March 10, 2020 | 352 Pages | Hardcover | Purchase via Bookstore Link

📖 Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1) by: Leigh Bardugo

Don’t let my ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 stars deter you – I really, really enjoyed this book, but I know it’s not going to be for everyone. It’s got every single trigger you can imagine and it’s a huge commitment. Not only is it 450 pages, but it’s intense and you have to pay attention. The characters, landmarks, and details are all necessary as you try to navigate two separate mysteries. It’s other-wordly too, so unfamiliar territory may turn some readers off.

Having said that, if you get through the first 100 pages, the story really takes off in an intriguing and complex way. Bardugo’s world building is incredible and the lure of secret societies among the elite students of Yale is fascinating. I was satisfied with the whole story, but I’m not sure I’m enamored enough to pick up the second book when it comes out.

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 | Flatiron Books | Pub Date: October 8, 2019 | 459 Pages | Hardcover | Purchase via Bookstore Link

Currently Reading:

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📖 *** The Long Flight Home by: Alan Hlad

This is my first box from Once Upon a Book Club and I am so excited! The Long Flight Home is WWII fiction – one of my favorite genres! – so I’m hoping the gifts along the way only make it that much more memorable!

From the Once Upon a Book Club website: “A unique reading experience! Each month you’ll receive a book (can be paperback or hardcover) to read, a 5″ x 7” quote print, along with 3-5 corresponding gifts to match a quote/item mentioned in the book. Each individually wrapped with a page number. Readers, open the gifts as they finish the corresponding page. The experience is unforgettable! It makes the reader feel as if the book is truly coming to life!

You’ll also find book club discussion questions in each monthly box. Each question will have a date next to it. Log onto our Instagram page on that date to discuss the book with other members of the Book Club community!”

If this sounds like a reading experience you’d like to try for yourself, use promo code HAPPIESTWHENREADING10 to get 10% off your box (regular price: $34.99)!

Kensington Publishing Corp. | Pub Date: June 25, 2019 | 304 Pages | Purchase via Bookstore Link

(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)

Libro.fm: #SHOPBOOKSTORESNOW

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These are unprecedented times.

We don’t know the impact COVID-19 is going to have on small businesses, so Libro.fm is doing their part to help ease the uncertainty many bookstores are facing right now.

Through the end of March, when you use promo code SHOPBOOKSTORESNOW, you will receive two audiobooks for the price of one. The ENTIRE purchase price ($14.99) goes to the independent bookstore of your choice (shout out to my closest indie: Tattered Cover Book Store!)

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The offer is there if you’re looking for a place to support. 💛

Some personal favorite audiobooks:

#partner #Librofm

My Week in Books {3/18/20}

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Use promo code HAPPIEST at Libro.fm for 3-for-1 audiobooks ($14.99) and support the independent bookstore of your choice! (More details below.)

On the one hand, the #coronavirussocialdistancing 🦠😷 has given me a lot of reading time. And I feel a little bit grateful to be able to tackle so many books that are on my TBR list (though I really wish I were grabbing more of them off my #unreadshelf but I always seem to get distracted by the new, bright, and shiny books 🤷🏼‍♀️).

On the other hand, I do find it a little difficult to focus at times. It’s hard to find the balance between an enjoyable escape and being aware of what’s happening in the world around us.

I hope and pray that all of you are doing well. I hope your families are safe and healthy. And I hope that we get through this sooner than later – that it ends up being much milder than some of the most dire predictions. At this point, only time will tell, but there are so many ways to be socially responsible at this time. In the past five days, I have left my house once (my kids not at all) to stock up on some groceries. The kids are currently on Spring Break anyway, so right now they’re not missing school, though our school district has extended that break for another week (when they’ll reevaluate next steps).

🎧 What’s so great about this day and age is how much we’re all connected – through technology and social media. It’s easy to support #smallbusinesses and/or download books from your library through your smart devices. Another wonderful company that I wholeheartedly endorse is Libro.fm. They’re the only audiobook company that directly support the small independent bookstore of your choice. If you’re a member, consider downloading a few audiobooks to lend some support to your favorite bookstore (you can even gift audiobooks and subscriptions!). If you’re not a member yet, follow this link and use my promo code (HAPPIEST) to get 3 audiobooks for the price of one ($14.99)!

Before moving onto some #minibookreviews, here are some links to my recent posts, in case you missed them:

What have you been reading (and loving) this week?

Last Week’s Reads:

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📖 Lab Girl by: Hope Jahren 🌱

I’ve heard great things over the years about this book, and the hype was real! I really, really enjoyed this one – much more than I would have thought possible. I loved how Jahren weaved aspects of her profession into the narrative and made it relative to her real life.

I LOVED BILL! He was incredible and their friendship over their lives was so heartwarming to me. It felt like Jahren was very much alone throughout her life and I was so happy that she and Bill found each other and continued to remain close.

I was a little annoyed that we didn’t get to know more about her relationship with her parents. In the beginning, it seemed as if her and her father were close, but then we never heard another word about him. I understood that her mother and her didn’t have a great relationship and I think it was implied that her mother also suffered from mania/bipolar disorder that probably made connection difficult, but I still would have liked to see that loose end tied up a little better.

Though it did get science-heavy at times, I still found it quite fascinating and I’m eager to get my hands on her latest book, The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here. It was just release on March 3rd!

This is also the #HWRbooks selection for March (discussion post will go live on March 21); I hope you’ll join the conversation!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Knopf | Pub Date: March 1, 2016 | 290 Pages | Paperback | Purchase via Bookstore Link

📖 *** A Good Neighborhood by: Therese Anne Fowler 🍁

This would have no doubt been a 5-star read for me if not for the bizarre and uncomfortable obsession with one of the characters (No spoilers…but if you want to know, be sure to send me an email at happiestwhenreading@yahoo.com.)

Moving on…

This book had all the elements I love in a book – unlikeable characters, drama, young love, and gossip between neighbors that gave it that Desperate Housewives vibe. And even though the writing was totally engrossing and I couldn’t put it down or turn the pages fast enough, it still left me wanting something more when I finished the last page.

In a way, it felt like Fowler built up this huge confrontation and then totally rushed the ending. My favorite character ended up being the villian (unfairly so, imo) and it let me donw. I suppose it was to prove a point (that racism in America is unfair and damaging and the wrong people often pay the price for that viewpoint), but for me, it wasn’t executed well enough for me to buy it.

Even though I’m not over-the-moon about this book, I didn’t feel like it was a waste of my time. If anything, I’m wishy-washy because it made me uncomfortable (usually a good thing), it left me with a lot to evaluate (always a good thing), and I’m still processing my thoughts and may end up revising my rating (also a good thing). (I struggled between 3 ½- and 4-stars, ultimately settling on 4-stars with a few **reservations to note.)

This book would make an excellent book club selection for all the reasons listed above. I think there’s a lot to dissect here and if you’ve read, please comment so we can discuss! I’m dying to talk about it!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | St. Martin’s Press | Pub Date: March 10, 2020 | 279 Pages | ARC (Paperback) | Purchase via Bookstore Link

🎧 *** The Witches Are Coming by: Lindy West 🧙🏼‍♀️

I can honestly say that I loved every single essay in this collection of feminist power! This book is also a great example of not having to agree with every aspect of another person’s thoughts and beliefs but still being able to see value in their perspective. I think West is smart and well-articulated; I plan on returning to this collection many times. I listened to this on audio, and it was FANTASTIC!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 Hachette Books | Pub Date: November 5, 2019 | 260 Pages | ARC (Audiobook) | Purchase via Bookstore Link

📱 *** Under the Rainbow by: Celia Laskey 🌈

I love that an author was courageous enough to take on small-town homophobia!! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 Living in a town very, very similar to Burr City, I felt myself nodding my head up and down over and over again!

After Burr City, Kansas is determined to be the most homophobic town in the United States, a LGTBQ non-profit group of activists moves in to try to spread awareness and acceptance among its residence. As you can imagine, they’re not welcomed with open arms, but as they continue to hold listening sessions, luaus, and information sessions, a few people start to appreciate their message.

Each chapter is a new person’s perspective. At first, I was worried I couldn’t keep them all straight, but Laskey did a wonderful job of connecting all the pieces. I loved the depth she gave each character and the message that was conveyed through this style of storytelling. Her character development was exceptional, but also frustrating. Just went I felt a deep connection to the character, it felt like the chapter ended and we moved on to a new person. Some of the stories felt dropped because of this and kind left me deflated.

I personally found most of Laskey’s homophobic behavior to be fairly accurate, unfortunately. It continues to sadden me that people can be so close-minded about a person for such ridiculous reasons. Literally just the other night at dinner, I got into a “discussion” with a local man because he called the Govenor of Colorado (who is openly gay) a deragotary name and suggested that he’s incapable of being a good govenor because of his sexual orientation. I called him out on his disgusting behavior and he quickly paid his bill and left without another glance my way – good riddance. Sometimes I feel like the only fish in the sea – but then I remember that queer people have felt this way much longer, so I dig my heels in and continue to advocate as best as I can.

P.S. I LOVE the cover…Riverhead always kills it with their covers! 😍

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Riverhead | Pub Date: March 3, 2020 | 288 Pages | ARC (E-book) | Purchase via Bookstore Link

📖 *** Anna K by: Jenny Lee 💰

When I saw comparisons to Gossip Girl, I was all in! I loved that show of elite teenagers seemingly running wild on the streets of New York, and this book had many of the same vibes. Drugs, sex, parties, privilege, and money galore, Lee takes the classic, Anna Karenina, and gives it a fun, modern YA twist among the NYC high school social scene.

There were many times while reading that I wondered if the elite of NYC high school students truly acted this way (same as I used to do when watching Gossip Girl). I don’t know if it’s an accurate portrayal or not, but either way it’s fun to read (watch)!

I know nothing about Anna Karenina, and it’s not necessary to enjoy this book. I feel like this was a great read – not too heavy, not too light – to escape into during the beginnings of the #coronavirus pandemic.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Flatiron Books | Pub Date: March 3, 2020 | 448 Pages | ARC (Hardcover) | Purchase via Bookstore Link

Currently Reading:

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📖 The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by: Josie Silver 🐦

Just started and I’m already hooked.

Ballantine Books | Pub Date: March 3, 2020 | 369 Pages | Hardcover | Purchase via Bookstore Link 

DNF (aka: Not For Me and/or Skipping For Now):

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📖 Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1) by: Neal Shusterman ⚰️

Maybe it’s the timing, I don’t know, but I’m definitely not feeling this one. It feels very slow to start and the premise and writing just aren’t grabbing me. I think I’ll pass it on to my teenage son who says “everyone” is reading it at school.

DNF @ 24% | Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers | Pub Date: November 22, 2016 | 435 Pages | Paperback | Purchase via Bookstore Link

#DNFingWithoutApologyin2020

(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)

It’s St. Patty’s Day: Irish Authors To Read

St. Patrick’s Day has always been one of my favorite days of the year. I’m not sure why that is – I’m not Irish, I don’t like corn beef and cabbage…but I do love the leprechauns, rainbows, four-leaf clovers, and pots full of gold! 🍀🌈💰

As it turns out, some of my favorite books are written by Irish authors!

  1. John Boyne – I will read absolutely everything John Boyne writes! One of my all-time favorite books, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, is written by him and I highly recommend starting with it.
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 9.49.57 AMThe Heart’s Invisible Furies (2017) – As mentioned above, this is one of my all time favorite books. It’s the beautiful story of Ceril Avery. His biological mother put him up for adoption when he was just three days old, so from the very beginning, Avery searches for a place where he feels like he belongs. Complicating things, he knows from a very young age that he is gay. This is literally against the law in post-WWII Ireland. What follows are the tragedies and triumphs of a life, and it has a special place in my bookreader’s heart.
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 9.49.22 AMA Ladder to the Sky (2018) – While not as good as The Heart’s Invisible Furies, A Ladder to the Sky is still quite exceptional. In this book, we’re introduced to a villain everyone loves to hate: Maurice Swift. Handsome, charming, and hungry for success, Swift is the ultimate con-artist. He doesn’t care who he hurts in the process; his only concern is for himself. Boyne’s masterful writing skills are on full display in this book as he creates a narcissistic character that fully engages his audience!
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 9.51.11 AMThe Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2006) – I read this book year’s ago and it wasn’t until a few months after finishing Heart’s that I realized it was the same author. Though very different than his later writing style, this is a story that’s hard to forget. Set in a WWII concentration camp, a young German boy (who is free) befriends a young Jewish boy (who is a prisoner in the camp). From there, their friendship blossoms and eventually concludes with a heart-breaking ending that I didn’t see coming.
  2. Emma Donoghue – Orginally from Dublin, Ireland, Donoghue entered my radar with the release of her award-winning book, Room.
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 10.05.06 AMRoom (2010) – For seven years, Ma has been held captive in a room and her son, Jack, has never known a world other than this room. Despite Ma’s efforts to create a life for Jack, he begins asking questions when he turns five. Ma explains to him that there is a whole world beyond the four walls he’s familiar with. She devises a plan to escape that rests entirely on Jack’s help and bravery. I always love a book with mother/child bonds and this book particulary stands out because of Ma’s fierce love for her son. By creating a fairly decent early childhood for Jack (all things considered), her resilience under the circumstances is admirable. Room was adapted into a feature film in 2015 and went on to win four Academy Awards.
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 10.15.24 AMThe Wonder (2016) – An English nurse, Lib Wright, is sent to Ireland in 1859 to observe what many are calling a miracle and a medical anomoly. Eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnoll has seemingly survived for months without eating any food. Is she doing it for religious reasons? Her parents certainly believe she can survive without food; therefore, sounding alarm bells to many outsiders. As journalists descend on the village and people flock there in hopes of experiencing Anna’s miraculous power for themselves, things start to spiral out of control. With a bit of psychological thriller vibes, this book definetly made for an interesting read!
  3. C.S. Lewis – Clive Staple Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1898. When his mother died in 1908, he was sent to England for school. So maybe technically more British than Irish, I’m still including him as an Irish author!
    • The Chronicales of Narnia
      • Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 11.06.19 AMThe Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950) – I think most people have heard of Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia books, especially The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (even though it’s the second book in the collection). Narnia is an eternally frozen world centered around the common trope of good vs evil. I foun this book to be magical and unforgettable (Aslan!). (I wasn’t as enraptured by the first book in the series, The Magician’s Nephew, and stopped reading the series after The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.)
  4. Sally Rooney – Born in Castlebar, Ireland, Rooney seems to be one of those devisive authors that you either love or hate.
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-18 at 10.27.57 AMNormal People (2019) – This is actually Rooney’s sophomore novel, but the only book of hers I’ve read. I admit: I’m not the biggest fan of this book – though all the elements were there for a book I should love – something just didn’t work for me. Having said that, I think about it a lot (still after almost a year since reading it – and that really is a good sign of writing and plot development).
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 10.59.41 AMConversations With Friends (2017) – Rooney’s debut novel, but I haven’t read it and I’m not sure I will because of my opinion about Normal People.

 

 

  • And here are a few Irish authors/books I haven’t read yet, but am looking forward to doing so soon:Screen Shot 2020-03-18 at 10.39.53 AM
  • Anne Griffin (2019) – When All Is Said
  • Emelie Pine (2019) – Notes to Self: Essays
  • Sinéad Gleeson (2019) – Constellations

Who are some of your favorite Irish authors and what books would you recommend by them?

 

7 Books To Take With You On Your Spring Break Vacation (Staycation?)!

Spring Break starts today in my neck of the woods!

When I think about Spring Break, all things tropical pop into my head: palm trees, slushy drinks, sandy beaches, and endless ocean views. I wish my views included some of these things, but alas, my family is staying put this year. We may try to add in a fews days out of town doing something fun, but there won’t be any beaches in my near future.

What’s constitutes a “spring break” book for you? I also like something that’s on the lighter side, easy to pick up and put down, and doesn’t have such intricate characters or storylines to keep straight.

So whether you’re heading somewhere warm and tropical or you’re enjoying a much needed staycation, here are some book suggestions to get you through the week!

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You Are Not Alone by: Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

“You probably know someone like Shay Miller.
She wants to find love, but it eludes her.
She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end.
She wants to belong, but her life is so isolated.

You probably don’t know anyone like the Moore sisters.
They have an unbreakable circle of friends.
They live the most glamorous life.
They always get what they desire.

Shay thinks she wants their life.
But what they really want is hers.”

I loved this thrilling ride through ups and downs, twists and turns. While I’m not well-versed in the thriller genre and I NEVER guess the correct villian, I found myself thinking I knew where this story was headed, only for my theory to be upended…again and again…and again! This is what made the book so fun and unputdownable for me! It would be the perfect book to read on the beach or poolside!

The Sun Down Motel by: Simone St. James

“The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…”

I LOVED this book! The perfect amount of mystery and spookiness and pacing. It took me less than 24 hours to devour; I couldn’t put it down!

The Holdout by: Graham Moore

“Young juror Maya Seale is convinced that African American high school teacher Bobby Nock is innocent of killing the wealthy white female student with whom he appears to have been involved and persuades her fellow jurors likewise. Ten years later, a true-crime docuseries reassembles the jurors, and Maya, now a defense attorney, must prove her own innocence when one of them is found dead in Maya’s room.”

In The Holdout, readers get an inside look at what serving on a sequestered jury may look like while also get a nuanced look at the American justice system and the flaws within it.

It’s best to go in blind on this one, but it’s a page turner you won’t be able to put down!

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Long Bright River by: Liz Moore

“In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don’t speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling.

Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey’s district, and Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit–and her sister–before it’s too late.

Alternating its present-day mystery with the story of the sisters’ childhood and adolescence, Long Bright River is at once heart-pounding and heart-wrenching: a gripping suspense novel that is also a moving story of sisters, addiction, and the formidable ties that persist between place, family, and fate.”

This book is full of mystery, addiction, and cop drama. While it’s classified as a thriller, I found it to be more mystery as Mickey searches for her lost sister, Kacey. It also takes a nuanced look at addiction and the opioid epidemic that seems to affect so many communities these days. There are twists and turns throughout, so you’ll be changing your mind several times before it’s all said and done!

In Five Years by: Rebecca Serle

“Where do you see yourself in five years?

When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan.

But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.

After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.

That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.

Brimming with joy and heartbreak, In Five Years is an unforgettable love story that reminds us of the power of loyalty, friendship, and the unpredictable nature of destiny.”

I initially thought this was a romance – and it does have romantic elements- but it’s so much more than that! Ultimately, this is a story about friendship and loyalty and connection. It explores the messiness of relationships and causes the reader to meditate on the ideas of fate and destiny. I connected with Serle’s easy, yet profound writing style, and she quietly put me in a position to contemplate one of my favorite questions: “what if”?

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Open Book by: Jessica Simpson

“Jessica reveals for the first time her inner monologue and most intimate struggles. Guided by the journals she’s kept since age fifteen, and brimming with her unique humor and down-to-earth humanity, Open Book is as inspiring as it is entertaining.

Now, America’s Sweetheart, preacher’s daughter, pop phenomenon, reality TV pioneer, and the billion-dollar fashion mogul invites readers on a remarkable journey, examining a life that blessed her with the compassion to help others but also burdened her with an almost crippling need to please. Open Book is Jessica Simpson using her voice, heart, soul, and humor to share things she’s never shared before.”

Simpson is very open and honest in this memoir, and I really appreciated it. I listened to the audiobook and it was powerful to hear her read her own story. I was especially struck by her insecurity – always feeling not good enough and fighting her bodyweight to make the music industry happy. Though most of us aren’t celebrities, I think a lot of us can relate to those insecurities and battles with our bodies. I loved feeling like Simpson was relatable, and this would be the perfect memoir to lose yourself in during vacation.

Becoming by: Michelle Obama

“In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.”

I devoured this book clear back when it was first released, but I can honestly say there’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t reflect on Obama’s powerful story. She may well be one of the most eloquent speakers of our time and I am in awe of her compassionate nature. I learned so much about the Obama Administration, but I was more struck with the former First Lady’s strength and commitment – not only to her family, but to our country.

Running With Sherman by: Christopher McDougall

“A heartwarming story about training a rescue donkey to run one of the most challenging races in America.

When Chris McDougall agreed to take in a donkey from an animal hoarder, he thought it would be no harder than the rest of the adjustments he and his family had made after moving from Philadelphia to the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country. But when he arrived, Sherman was in such bad shape he could barely move, and his hair was coming out in clumps. Chris decided to undertake a radical rehabilitation program designed not only to heal Sherman’s body but to heal his mind as well. It turns out the best way to soothe a donkey is to give it a job, and so Chris decided to teach Sherman how to run. He’d heard about burro racing–a unique type of race where humans and donkeys run together in a call-back to mining days–and decided he and Sherman would enter the World Championship in Colorado.

Easier said than done. In the course of Sherman’s training, Chris would have to recruit several other runners, both human and equine, and call upon the wisdom of burro racers, goat farmers, Amish running club members, and a group of irrepressible female long-haul truckers. Along the way, he shows us the life-changing power of animals, nature, and community.”

I’m not gonna lie – the above description from the publishers doesn’t make me want to run out and read this book. But if I had to descibe it in one word, I’d call it absolutely delightful!

McDougall writes narrative nonfiction so well. As a reader, you become totally immersed in his storytelling. By the end, you feel inspired and hopeful and darn right lucky to have crossed paths iwth such a great book!

This lighthearted read would make the perfect companion on your Spring Break trip!

Whether you’re going somewhere or staying closer to home, I hope you find at least a few books that sound like something you might enjoy!

Drop me a comment below and let me know what book you’re taking with you!

 

My Week in Books {3/11/20}

I love this time of year and last week’s weather was incredible!

I got to read outdoors a little bit and enjoy the sun and basically it just made me impatient for constant warm weather to arrive!

In case you missed them, here are some links to my recent posts:

What have you been reading (and loving) this week?

Last Week’s Reads:

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📖 Severance by: Ling Ma

I’ve had this book on my shelf since 2018, so I find it a little wierd that I decided to pick it up NOW…in the midst of a very similar situation with the current Coronavirus outbreak. 😳 However, I will say it was quite interesting to read about a fictional situation that seemingly runs parallel to current events (if you’re a sensitive reader, I wouldn’t suggest reading this one right now). 😷

It took me awhile to get into, but once I did, Severance took off and I couldn’t put it down. Satirical in its take on American culture, I found Ma making pretty accurate correlations which equally humored me and made me incredibly sad. As Americans, we’re highly immersed in capitalism and our lives seemingly revolve around work. But when a pandemic hits, is that work or materialism going to save you (spoiler alert: no). While Ma lent a kind of joking tone to some of the questions she raised in this book, it also had such an element of truth to it that it quickly became quite profound and forced me to do some introspective work.

If you enjoyed Station Eleven, you’d enjoy this as those vibes are quite strong throughout. I personally preferred Severance to Station Eleven, but again, it’s not a good fit if the current health crisis freaks you out!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Farrar, Straus, and Giroux | Pub Date: August 14, 2018 | 291 Pages | Hardcover | Purchase via Bookstore Link

🎧 *** Running With Sherman: The Donkey With the Heart of a Hero by: Christopher McDougall

SHERMAN! I LOVED this story of a donkey that changed a community – bringing them all together to participate in a challenging burro race in the mountains of Colorado.

I initially dismissed this one because my thought was, “An entire book about a donkey? Really?!” But then another reader meantioned that it was the same author as Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen and I knew I needed to read it ASAP.

I’m a HUGE fan of McDougall’s book, Born To Run, and this one is just as good. I love the way McDougall weaves a story together – not only telling the story behind the title of the book, but also taking a deep dive into many other smaller, related, and just as important stories. Not only do I learn about training for grueling foot races, but I learned some fascinating information about the Amish community, tidbits about health, and lots of interesting details about animals and their contribution to our lives.

If you’re a runner (and even if you’re not), this book is sure to be a favorite! READ IT! I listened to this one on audio – McDougall narrates himself – and it’s fantastic!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Knopf | Pub Date: October 15, 2019 | 341 Pages | Audiobook | Purchase via Bookstore Link

📱 *** You Are Not Alone by: Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

This is my first book by this dynamic duo of authors and they did not disappoint! I loved this thrilling ride through ups and downs, twists and turns. While I’m not well-versed in the thriller genre and I NEVER guess the correct villian, I found myself thinking I knew where this story was headed, only for my theory to be upended…again and again…and again! This is what made the book so fun and unputdownable for me! I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the backlist of Hendricks and Pekkanen, but I’ll definetly keep my eye out for future books!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | St. Martin’s Press | Pub Date: March 3, 2020 | 343 Pages | E-Book | Purchase via Bookstore Link

📖 Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by: J.D. Vance

I have very mixed feelings about this book. One the one hand, I related to so much of the book (though I’m not from the geographical locations mentioned in the book, I do come from a lower socioeconomic town – more lower class than middle), and felt it resonated with a lot of the population of my town. Though I think my idea of what a “hillbilly” is differs greatly from what Vance relays, my town is blanketed with this term, mostly because of the political views of the majority of the town (rightwing, conservative, proud gun-toting people). I see the same struggles where I live – children living in extreme poverty, with little interaction from their drug-addicted parents (legalizing marijuana didn’t help), and little hope of rising above their circumstances. However, I believe that’s where the similarities end.

I felt like Vance took ownership of a lifestyle and term he didn’t properly own. To me it seemed as if he was more from Middletown than Kentucky. And while he stressed his love of Kentucky and his “hillbilly” upbringing, he also seemed quite condescending to the culture. It felt like he was capitalizing on an opportunity to speak for a group of people, yet he totally lacked the true immersion of the culture to be their spokesman. I also think I was expecting more from the book because I kept hearing how it was an accurate representation of the people who put Trump in the White House. Speaking from a place where people love Trump, I don’t feel like my friends, neighbors, or acquaintances resemble the people of Vance’s book at all.

While many people feel this is a great book on the social commentary it presents, I found it much more compelling as a simple memoir of a determined, self-motivated man who rose from his abusive childhood to earn a law degree from one of the most prestigious law schools, Yale. Having said that, I do think this would be an exceptional book club selection as there is so much to dissect and discuss here!

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 | Harper | Pub Date: June 28, 2016 | 257 Pages | Hardcover | Purchase via Bookstore Link

🎧 *** Make It Scream, Make It Burn by: Leslie Jamison

As with any essay collection, some of these were more interesting to me than others. But listening to Jamison on audio was what really made this book stand out for me. There’s something about her voice and the way she read each of her essays that captured me and made me connect to her words that I’m not sure would have worked as well for me in print.

Essays that particularly stood out to me were: We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live Again; Sim Life; Daughter of a Ghost; Museum of Broken Hearts; and The Quickening.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Little, Brown and Company | Pub Date: September 24, 2019 | 272 Pages | Audiobook | Purchase via Bookstore Link

Currently Reading:

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📖 Lab Girl by: Hope Jahren

I’m halfway through Part I, and though it gets a little science heavy at times, I’m enjoying Jahren’s writing and knowledge. So far, this is reading more like a memoir (which I wasn’t really expecting), but it’s good!

This is also the #HWRbooks selection for March (discussion post will go live on March 21); I hope you’ll join the conversation!

Knopf | Pub Date: March 1, 2016 | 290 Pages | Paperback | Purchase via Bookstore Link

🎧 *** The Witches Are Coming by: Lindy West

I’m currently on the third chapter and so far, I’m totally enjoying it!

Hachette Books | Pub Date: November 5, 2019 | 260 Pages | Audiobook | Purchase via Bookstore Link

DNF (aka: Not For Me and/or Skipping For Now):

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📱 *** America Was Hard To Find by: Kathleen Alcott

Maybe this would have made sense to me on another day, but I wasn’t getting it.

ECCO | Pub Date: May 14, 2019 | 432 Pages | E-Book | Purchase via Bookstore Link

#DNFingWithoutApologyin2020

 

(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)